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Why a Mother's Unhealthy Attachment to Her Kids Starts Long Before They're Born

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Two years ago, French feminist Elisabeth Badinter wrote a book pointing out how women's over-intensive parenting style was setting the movement back decades - The Conflict: How Modern Motherhood Sets Back The Cause Of Women.

Last week her book was finally published in English and has started ruffling feathers outside of France.

The style of motherhood that enrages Badinter is one that all vaguely aspirational female British graduates will recognise. Even if, like me, you've yet to have children.

It's a labour-intensive, on-demand and all-consuming 'natural' approach, involving years of breastfeeding, organic 'everything' and indulging in selfless devices such as 'co-sleeping', which Badinter argues keep women leashed to the crib years after they should have chucked the kid in daycare, wiped off the sick, and gone back to work.

Now, Badinter is a 68-year-old millionaire granny, who comes in contact with uber-moms who puree homegrown asparagus for their kids' breakfasts - so I'm not sure she's the person to lecture my mates on how to raise their kids.

But still, her arguments rang a strange little bell in my head.

I've been surprised - among my own friends - how much of them are 'looking forward' to having a baby. And, I'm not just talking about the biological clock doing some serious hormonal damage by turning walks in the park into toddler-stalking sessions. No, They're looking forward to being away from work - and basically from their life as they know it.

I've lost count of the times I've heard: "I just can't wait for a year off" as my friends contemplate the impending loss of professional independence, career prospects and financial security. It's as though, when women hit their early thirties, maternity 'leave' suddenly becomes the equivalent of middle-class gap year. And it's no coincidence that this coincides with a certain sense of career stagnation.

After a near decade of post-university striving, I might have assumed, among my opinionated, brilliant talented, utterly fearless female friends, there would be a certain reluctance to accept such an apparent setback as childbirth - but that's absolutely not the case.

What years in the job market have actually given these women is a valuable lesson in the evils of work. The vaulting ambition of their youth has been replaced by the very real knowledge that much of professional life is dull, repetitive and frustrating, with little reward.

After years of jumping from one office to another in search of 'the one', all they really have to show for their lot are semi-satisfying, enormously demanding day jobs, which allow them to purchase tiny homes, with vast mortgages, nowhere near decent schools - and the prospect of more of the same if they go straight back after the birth. Oh, and of course, there's that baby to juggle.

However, in the garden of sweet maternity leave Eden, complete spiritual satisfaction, via the love of an innocent child, is apparently on offer. Never mind semi-poverty - can it be worse than working for a baby boomer boss who doesn't know what Twitter is?

This idea that women are 'putting their children first' is entirely misleading, it seems to me. Women are merely putting work very firmly second.

Around the Web

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